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Special Needs Home School Starter Kit

By Sharon C. Hensley, M.A.
Almaden Valley Christian School

Do you have a child whom you suspect may have a learning challenge? Or maybe, like one in my own family, you have received an "official diagnosis" of learning disability. Has this revelation left you feeling confused, upset, uncertain, and adrift in your home schooling journey? Rest assured that there is help available and that you CAN home school a special needs child. Sharon Hensley, author of Home Schooling Children with Special Needs reminds us that we can turn these challenges into opportunities! I had the chance to review her Special Needs Home School Starter Kit, and was incredibly blessed.

How I came to learn about Ms. Hensley was surely God's providence. One week after I learned that one of my precious brood had a learning disability, Gena (editor extraordinaire of The Old Schoolhouse) asked me if I would like to review these products. I was encouraged, educated, and empowered. Let's start with the book. Home Schooling Children with Special Needs teaches us to first distinguish between learning differences and learning difficulties. A kinesthetic learner who is forced to do math worksheets would have a learning mismatch. His learning style does not match how he is being taught. A learning difficulty, on the other hand, is when there is a glitch, to use Sharon's word, in how information is processed in the brain. Glitches can exist in the visual, motor, auditory, or attention systems. The book thoroughly explains each glitch and also explores other disabilities, gives specific instruction for planning a home school program, and offers encouragement for dealing with the many emotional issues involved in raising these children. Mrs. Hensley brings warmth and encouragement to her work and her knowledge is from her formal education (M.A. in special education) and life experience (home schooling mom of three children, one with autism).

After devouring the book, I listened to her audiotapes, "Understanding and Teaching Struggling Learners." This three-tape set features Mrs. Hensley in a live workshop setting where she explains the approaches to teaching the special child. A balanced approach is one that contains remediation as well as compensation. Remediation is working on the skills that are at a deficit. Compensation is learning strategies to manage material, such as fewer problems on a page, etc. I particularly enjoyed the questions from the audience in these sessions. Real people posed some real problems to Mrs. Hensley and she gave concrete, helpful answers. Finally, I watched the video, "Program Planning for Special Needs Students." Using her accompanying "Curriculum Planning Resource Guide," this video took me, step-by-step through the process of designing a program and choosing resources to use with my daughter. AVCS operates an umbrella school program and Mrs. Hensley offers consultation to home schooling families. AVCS books has a complete catalog of curriculum materials and resources.

I was floored when I first learned of my daughter's difficulties. I got off the floor and onto my knees to ask for the Lord's guidance. Then these materials gave me hope and encouragement. Don't despair until you have done your homework and examined all your options. This is the place to begin. For further information write Almaden Valley Christian School at 6291 Vegas Drive, San Jose, CA 95120, or call at 408.776.6691.

-- Product Review by: Christine Field, Lead Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouseâ„¢ Magazine

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